Epistle to Robert Graham, Esq. (Poem by Robert Burns)

Old Poem

Epistle to Robert Graham, Esq.
Of Fintray:
On the Close of the Disputed Election between Sir James Johnstone, and Captain Miller, for the Dumfries District of Boroughs
By Robert Burns

Fintray, my stay in worldly strife,
Friend o’ my muse, friend o’ my life,
            Are ye as idle’s I am?
Come then, wi’ uncouth, kintra fleg,
O’er Pegasus I’ll fling my leg,
            And ye shall see me try him.

I’ll sing the zeal Drumlanrig bears,
Who left the all-important cares
            Of princes and their darlings;
And, bent on winning borough towns,
Came shaking hands wi’ wabster lowns,
            And kissing barefit carlins.

Combustion thro’ our boroughs rode,
Whistling his roaring pack abroad
            Of mad unmuzzled lions;
As Queensberry buff and blue unfurl’d,
And Westerha’ and Hopeton hurl’d
            To every Whig defiance.

But cautious Queensberry left the war,
Th’ unmanner’d dust might soil his star;
            Besides, he hated bleeding:
But left behind him heroes bright,
Heroes in C├Žsarean fight,
            Or Ciceronian pleading.

O! for a throat like huge Mons-meg,
To muster o’er each ardent Whig
            Beneath Drumlanrig’s banner;
Heroes and heroines commix,
All in the field of politics,
            To win immortal honour.

M’Murdo [1] and his lovely spouse,
(Th’ enamour’d laurels kiss her brows!)
            Led on the loves and graces:
She won each gaping burgess’ heart,
While he, all-conquering, play’d his part
            Among their wives and lasses.

Craigdarroch [2] led a light-arm’d corps,
Tropes, metaphors and figures pour,
            Like Hecla streaming thunder:
Glenriddel, [3] skill’d in rusty coins,
Blew up each Tory’s dark designs,
            And bar’d the treason under.

In either wing two champions fought,
Redoubted Staig [4] who set at nought
            The wildest savage Tory:
And Welsh, [5] who ne’er yet flinch’d his ground,
High-wav’d his magnum-bonum round
            With Cyclopeian fury.

Miller brought up th’ artillery ranks,
The many-pounders of the Banks,
            Resistless desolation!
While Maxwelton, that baron bold,
‘Mid Lawson’s [6] port intrench’d his hold,
            And threaten’d worse damnation.

To these what Tory hosts oppos’d,
With these what Tory warriors clos’d.
            Surpasses my descriving:
Squadrons extended long and large,
With furious speed rush to the charge,
            Like raging devils driving.

What verse can sing, what prose narrate,
The butcher deeds of bloody fate
            Amid this mighty tulzie!
Grim Horror grinn’d—pale Terror roar’d,
As Murther at his thrapple shor’d,
            And hell mix’d in the brulzie.

As highland craigs by thunder cleft,
When lightnings fire the stormy lift,
            Hurl down with crashing rattle:
As flames among a hundred woods;
As headlong foam a hundred floods;
            Such is the rage of battle!

The stubborn Tories dare to die;
As soon the rooted oaks would fly
            Before the approaching fellers:
The Whigs come on like Ocean’s roar,
When all his wintry billows pour
            Against the Buchan Bullers.

Lo, from the shades of Death’s deep night,
Departed Whigs enjoy the fight,
            And think on former daring:
The muffled murtherer [7] of Charles
The Magna Charter flag unfurls,
            All deadly gules it’s bearing.

Nor wanting ghosts of Tory fame.
Bold Scrimgeour [8] follows gallant Graham, [9]
            Auld Covenanters shiver.
(Forgive, forgive, much-wrong’d Montrose!
Now death and hell engulph thy foes,
            Thou liv’st on high for ever!)

Still o’er the field the combat burns,
The Tories, Whigs, give way by turns;
            But fate the word has spoken:
For woman’s wit and strength o’ man,
Alas! can do but what they can!
            The Tory ranks are broken.

O that my een were flowing burns,
My voice a lioness that mourns
            Her darling cubs’ undoing!
That I might greet, that I might cry,
While Tories fall, while Tories fly,
            And furious Whigs pursuing!

What Whig but melts for good Sir James!
Dear to his country by the names
            Friend, patron, benefactor!
Not Pulteney’s wealth can Pulteney save!
And Hopeton falls, the generous brave!
            And Stewart, [10] bold as Hector.

Thou, Pitt, shalt rue this overthrow;
And Thurlow growl a curse of woe;
            And Melville melt in wailing!
How Fox and Sheridan rejoice!
And Burke shall sing, O Prince, arise,
            Thy power is all prevailing!

For your poor friend, the Bard, afar
He only hears and sees the war,
            A cool spectator purely;
So, when the storm the forests rends,
The robin in the hedge descends,
            And sober chirps securely.


[1] John M’Murdo, Esq., of Drumlanrig.

[2] Fergusson of Craigdarroch.

[3] Riddel of Friars-Carse.

[4] Provost Staig of Dumfries.

[5] Sheriff Welsh.

[6] A wine merchant in Dumfries.

[7] The executioner of Charles I. was masked.

[8] Scrimgeour, Lord Dundee.

[9] Graham, Marquis of Montrose.

[10] Stewart of Hillside.

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